Gabriel Harper reflects on his experience at NFTY Convention, February 15-18, 2019 in Dallas, Texas
I think the best way to sum up my experience at NFTY Convention is with one word, Hopeful. Why you might ask? It’s simple, I know the future is in good hands. I know change is being made, and the issues that are affecting us all now are going to be fixed. By us. All of us.
Really, I think sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in all the negativity that seems to be forever going on in the world. It just feels like everything bad is stuck on replay, a constant reminder of how terrible things seem to be. No mention of who’s fixing it or what even can be done to fix the bad. Just the bad, and nothing but the bad. It’s just so hard to ignore it all sometimes. But at Convention, that was so much different. Something that stuck with me was the way how so many people I met wanted change and weren’t afraid to show it, and they aren’t waiting on others to do it.
At Convention, the things going on in the world weren’t ignored either, they were all addressed in meaningful ways. From the moving service dedicated to the students at Parkland to the Sunday social justice discussions that happened almost all day. It was made clear we can change all of this, and everyone was willing to discuss how. For example, I had the opportunity to participate in a discussion about fake news and it was clear that the people within the room all had differing opinions. But they all presented their opinions respectfully. It felt good to actually be involved in a civil discussion about something that affects us all greatly and hearing what everyone else brought to the table, and despite many peoples disagreements, we all found common ground. That was the first time I had witnessed something like that in far too long.
I felt this change first hand too, during a discussion on inclusion something was brought up that affected me directly. How I felt slightly embarrassed about was how I actually got to Convention. I had to ask for my community to help me go. Despite how much they went above and beyond to help me go and how grateful I will always be for that, I still felt embarrassed that I had to ask for that help. When a relevant topic came up that was close to this issue, I felt the urge to talk about it despite how embarrassed I was. And I am so glad I did, the response I got was amazing. Everyone in the group I was in supported me in a way that made me actually feel proud that I asked for that help. It was made clear to me that if I never put myself out there, I would have never experienced something as awesome as NFTY Convention.
All in all, I have a feeling that one day I will have even more reason to say I am proud to have been to NFTY Convention 2019. I know there were both future and present changemakers there, and I probably met them. And It’s such an awesome feeling knowing that.